|Senator for South Australia|
1 July 1935 – 30 June 1947
10 December 1949 – 14 September 1955
|Succeeded by||Nancy Buttfield|
6 August 1892|
Port Clinton, South Australia
|Died||14 September 1955
North Adelaide, South Australia
|Political party||Liberal Party of Australia|
|Spouse(s)||Marcia Doreen Weston|
|Children||1 son, 1 daughter|
McLeay was born in Port Clinton, South Australia and educated at Port Clinton Public School until 1906 when he was sent to Adelaide where he continued his education at Unley Public School. At the outbreak of World War I, he was rejected for service in the First Australian Imperial Force and did civilian war work instead. He and his younger brother Jack—who also became a federal politician, as did his son, John—set up as accountants and agents and eventually became wholesale and retail merchants. In October 1924, he married Marcia Doreen Weston.
At twenty McLeay joined the Liberal Union and in 1922 ran unsuccessfully for election for the seat of Adelaide in the House of Representatives. In the 1934 elections, he was elected to the Australian Senate. He was leader of the government in the Senate from November 1938 to October 1941 and Vice-President of the Executive Council from November 1938 to March 1940 and from October 1940 to October 1941. He was Minister for Commerce from April 1939 to March 1940 in the first Menzies Ministry and Minister for Trade and Customs from March to October 1940 in the second Menzies Ministry. He was Postmaster-General in the third Menzies Ministry from October 1940 until the fall of the government in August 1941 and Minister for Repatriation until June 1941 and Minister for Supply and Development from June to October 1941.
McLeay was leader of the opposition in the Senate from 1941 until the end of his Senate term in June 1947. He was defeated in the 1946 elections, but re-elected to the Senate in 1949 elections. Robert Menzies appointed him Minister for Shipping and Fuel, in 1949, Minister for Shipping, Fuel and Transport in 1950 and Minister for Shipping and Transport in 1951. He energetically negotiated with shipowners and trade unions to improve the performance of the ports. In 1954 the Commonwealth Railways named a diesel locomotive after him – NSU 51.